FACING SURREY'S HOMELESS: 'I honestly felt suicide was my only option.'

FACING SURREY’S HOMELESS: ‘I honestly felt suicide was my only option.’

Gregory, 49, fell in love with the Metro Vancouver area while on a holiday during Expo ’86.

“I loved the mountains and the ocean and Whistler. It was just so beautiful,” he says. “I knew I would come back one day. I’ve been a drifter all my life.”

But it wasn’t until his mother died in 1999 that he decided to make the permanent move from his home of Newfoundland and Labrador to the West Coast.

Working as a labourer in Nova Scotia for $6.25 an hour wasn’t paying the bills and a failed relationship had depleted much of his savings, so a new start seemed right.

With the construction boom in B.C. in full swing, Gregory easily found work as a labourer and eventually as a foreman for a drainage company. He was able to obtain his safety and traffic control tickets, certifications that would enhance his employment options.

Over time, Gregory developed neck and back injuries that would require surgery and recovery time. About a year ago, he settled in Whalley, as the housing costs were more affordable than the rest of the Lower Mainland.

While off work on disability, he was placed in a government program that allowed him to earn small amounts of money to supplement his $610 cheque. He took a job unloading freezer trucks in Richmond, and while he working alone inside one of the trucks, a 70-kilogram (150-lb) pallet fell on him, striking him in the head. No injury report was ever filed.

“Here I was fighting for job site safety all these years, and no one was fighting for me,” Gregory says.

Diagnosed with a severe concussion and numbness in his face and hands, he began living on a diet of painkillers. With few people sympathetic to his plight, he contemplated taking his own life.

“I honestly felt suicide was my only option,” he says. “I was behind on my rent and I had to be out in two days. I was desperate.”

That’s when he contacted Hyland House in Newton, an emergency shelter run by Options Community Services Society.

“Two support workers showed up at my apartment. They said ‘we’ve got you a room.’ I almost cried.”

With WorkSafeBC now monitoring his condition, Gregory is looking for an apartment and getting the help he needs.

“I want to work. I want back in the game.”

NO FIXED ADDRESS: Read the other stories in this Leader special report:

• The homeless: It might not be who you think

• ‘I honestly felt suicide was my only option.’

• ‘I literally have nowhere to go.’

• ‘We’re not drug freaks. We would just love a place to stay.’

• Pushed into despair – and onto the streets

• ‘Once I tried cocaine intravenously, I was done.’

• ‘Everything is a struggle when you don’t have an address.’

• The cost of caring: $7 billion in government services

• ‘ I lost my brother, my mother and my father.’

• ‘Sometimes I would even go to the airport and just pretend I was going somewhere and sleep.’

• Working the NightShift in Surrey

• The solution? In short, more housing










Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A memorial to Hudson Brooks outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment. (File photo)
Officer who fatally shot Hudson Brooks recounts ‘absolutely terrifying’ incident

Const. Elizabeth Cucheran testified at coroner’s inquest Tuesday morning

File photo
Surrey council members give themselves a raise in secret meeting

A redacted report was subsequently posted to the city’s website

Photo posted to facebook.com/HoratioAlgerCA.
Eight Surrey students among 170 Horatio Alger scholarship winners in Canada

‘Need-based scholarships’ given to high school students

Students with Seaquam Secondary’s Delta Youth Advisory Council are collecting non-perishable food donations Feb. 1 to March 5 to help feed local families in need over spring break. (Delta School District/submitted photo)
Seaquam Secondary food drive to help feed 15 North Delta families

Donations can be dropped week days between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. until Monday, March 8

Crews work to build Central Surrey Recycling and Waste Centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
PHOTOS/VIDEO: Surrey’s new recycling/waste dropoff site takes shape near Newton business park

‘Central Surrey’ location to make for ‘a convenient one-stop-drop’ by early 2022

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Most Read